If you are looking to take your crunch to a whole new level of effectiveness, then the long arm crunch is one to try.
How to Do It
Lie on your back on a mat or padded surface. Bend your knees enough to keep your feet flat on the floor. Extend arms above your head, and bring hands together, holding your arms tight to your ears. Keep your head and neck in line with the rest of your back, and curl up, so your upper body comes off the mat at about a 20 degree angle. As you lift, be careful to keep your lower back glued to the mat, and your repetitions slow for the most effectiveness. Exhale as you rise up, and drive your back into the floor. Focus on feeling the crunch in your abdominal muscles as you lift. Be sure to keep your shoulders pressed down, not hunched up to your ears as you lift. Complete 15-20 repetitions.
Why It Works
The long arm crunch is super effective because it essentially isolates the abdominal muscles. As you complete the exercise, you add resistance to make the muscles work harder. When you extend your arms, the ‘long lever’ that is created increases the surface area that needs to be lifted and controlled. Picture holding a pencil in the center between your thumb and finger. Move your arm up and down and keep it straight. Not difficult, right? Now hold it at one end and move your arm while keeping it straight. This is much more challenging, just like it is for your abs as you lift.
As you rise up, you will keep your arms next to your ears, which prevents your neck from getting involved and keeps your arms busy to prevent them from helping you out with momentum. This aids in the isolation part of the exercise.
Make It Harder
Add the element of a full stretch in the abs by extending your legs straight out from your body and flex your feet. To ramp it up even more lay on your back on the round side of an exercise ball. Extend your arms and legs and complete the crunches with the added dimension of the stretch between crunches. Engage your entire core with each repetition.
If you choose to add weight to make the exercise more difficult, try grasping a 5 lb. dumbbell in your hands. Keep the weight low to allow you to maintain your form. Link your fingers around the handle and rise up as you normally did.
Once you have completed the other options for making the long arm crunch more difficult, complete them until your muscles are fatigued. Then rest for 1 minute before your next set.
Any time you can add an arm extension to your ab exercise, you’ll find that the exercise quickly becomes harder as your muscles fatigue. Try to incorporate a long arm extension for roman chairs or exercise ball passes once you have mastered the crunch. Enjoy the long arm crunch to flatten, strengthen and condition your abs.